Thank you, Mr. Chair and distinguished members of this committee.
On behalf of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, I would like to extend my thanks to the committee for the opportunity to input into your study on foreign credential recognition.
My name is Jean-François LaRue, and I am the new Director General of Labour Market Integration, within the Skills and Employment Branch. I also have with me my colleague Silvano Tocchi, from the Skills and Employment Branch.
Today, I would like to provide the Committee with an update on the important work that HRSDC's Foreign Credential Recognition, or FCR, Program has been doing to improve the labour market outcomes of immigrants.
First, I want to emphasize HRSDC's work toward overcoming systemic barriers to immigrant labour market integration and how this work is very distinct and yet complementary to the role played by CIC, which seeks to address the individual—and I insist on the word “individual”—credential recognition challenges faced by immigrants.
From a systemic perspective, we know there are real economic costs to the Canadian economy associated with the non-recognition of foreign credentials. As was noted last Thursday in testimony, these losses are estimated to range between $2.4 billion and $5.9 billion annually.
Beyond the losses to productivity, the underuse of the skills and employment potential of immigrants also results in unnecessary increases to social services costs, a decreased ability of employers to find employees with the required skills, and loss of potential tax revenue.
That is why the initiatives supported by the foreign credential recognition program are not just the right thing to do for individuals; they are also sound economic policy in an area where the leadership role of the Government of Canada is key.
By tapping into the skills of immigrants, HRSDC is supporting the creation of a larger, more efficient, and more flexible labour market. By ensuring the qualifications of immigrants are given their due, we are laying the foundation for a more efficient job-matching process that responds to the needs of employers.
The FCR program is a key lever through which the skills, international experience, and global perspectives of Canada's immigrants can strengthen the labour market and position Canada to succeed in the forthcoming economic recovery.
Since 2003, the foreign credential recognition program has been supporting systemic labour market interventions to improve the labour market outcomes of immigrants by strengthening Canada's capacity to assess and recognize the credentials of immigrants.
The FCR program provides strategic financial support to organizations responsible for assessing and recognizing foreign credentials, some of which you met here last Thursday. Our support enables these organizations to develop processes and practices that are fair, consistent, transparent, and rigorous.
As of October 2009, the FCR program has provided support to 123 projects in 27 different occupations, for a total of $71.2 million worth of investments. Through Canada's economic action plan, an additional $50 million was allocated over this year and next to support this work. The FCR program is currently supporting 34 active projects, 19 of which are in the critically important health sector on which my colleague, Kathryn McDade, will report to you a little later.
I would like to draw your attention to four areas where we have seen considerable progress.
First, the FCR program has played an important role in facilitating the emergence of pan-Canadian partnerships. The FCR program provides financial support to a variety of stakeholders, including regulatory authorities, assessment agencies, professional associations, post-secondary educational institutions, immigrant-serving agencies, sector councils, and employers, so they have the opportunities to coordinate their efforts to develop FCR processes and tools tailored to the needs of their clients and members.
Second, we are also increasing the capacity of regulated occupations to evaluate and recognize the credentials of immigrants, with an initial emphasis on physicians, nurses, and engineers.
Engineers are the single largest occupational grouping of newcomers to the country. Our partnership with Engineers Canada, who are leaders in developing FCR models, has helped this key demographic group to integrate into the labour market.
Since 2003, FCRP has funded a series of projects with Engineers Canada that have proceeded from environmental scans followed by concrete recommendations for effective tools and processes. The FCR program's early interventions and ongoing support have helped Engineers Canada produce their groundbreaking Database of Foreign Engineering Institutions.
This Database is centrally maintained and used by provincial engineering regulatory bodies to assess internationally-trained engineers, thereby expediting the evaluation and licensure process for international engineering graduates in Canada. This project also resulted in all engineering regulators across Canada agreeing on consistent approaches to FCR for internationally-trained engineers.
Third, the FCR program also has had engagement in the non-regulated sector, which represents between 80% and 85% of the jobs in the Canadian economy. The FCR program has supported 11 sector councils, as these crucial stakeholders provide an effective platform from which employers are able to access the tools they need to facilitate credential assessments.
Our partnership with BioTalent Canada is one such success story. BioTalent Canada is creating opportunities for immigrants in the biotechnology sector to connect with employers through internship programs that include curricula to help employers coach internationally trained professionals and introduce them to the Canadian biotechnology sector work environment. BioTalent Canada has also developed a national practical assessment and training approach for the internationally trained. This approach assesses and teaches sector-specific terminology and acronyms and language ability such as listening, comprehension, and pronunciation. The project is also increasing cooperation between governments, community agencies, industry, and, most importantly, internationally trained professionals as they are welcomed into Canada's biotechnology sector.
Fourth, we've also made progress in delivering supports to individuals prior to their arrival in Canada. As noted by Corinne, the Canadian immigration integration project has piloted the design and delivery of a continuum of services, beginning overseas and continuing after an individual's landing in Canada. This pioneering work has helped to lay the foundation for the overseas strategy of the FCRO.
Complementing the FCR program's efforts to create a systemic capacity is the “Working in Canada Tool”. Managed by HRSDC, workingincanada.gc.ca helps provide immigrants with relevant, up-to-date, and credible information on credential recognition, pay rates, current job offers, and much more. The “Working in Canada Tool” aggregates information from six Government of Canada labour market databases, and produces reports customized to an immigrant's occupation and location. The tool can produce close to 40,000 unique reports, and it is used nearly 65,000 to 75,000 times a month, mostly by people living overseas.
Regarding the foreign qualification recognition framework, as you know, on January 16, 2009, the first ministers directed the labour market ministers to develop a pan-Canadian qualification recognition framework and a plan to put it into place. This process is ongoing. Over the coming weeks the forum of labour market ministers will continue to work towards a consensus framework document. I'm confident that the work the forum of labour market ministers is undertaking will make a significant contribution to reducing barriers faced by internationally trained workers and that it will lead to the improved integration of immigrants into the labour force.
The FCR program will continue to be a key piece of the Government of Canada's response to the issue of foreign credential recognition. Building on the lessons we have learned over the years, the FCR program will replicate the early successes we've had with groups like Engineers Canada and BioTalent Canada to address systemic labour market barriers on a larger scale.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My colleague from Health Canada, Kathryn McDade, will round out the picture, by speaking to the Government of Canada's interventions in the critically important health sector.